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Fraudulent Studies Disappear, But Not Without a Sound (Thanks to 'Retraction Watch')

Scientific journals pride themselves on holding researchers to the highest standards. So when a previously published study is later found to be wrong, editors “retract” it. Problem is, the original is highly publicized while the retraction is not.

Medical journals and other peer-reviewed publications pride themselves on holding researchers to the highest standards of ethical and scientific integrity.  So when it's later discovered that data in a published study were fraudulent or that human subjects were treated in an unethical manner, editors "retract" the article—removing it from the journal's archives and making it seem as if the article was never published in the first place.

While the results of many high-profile studies are often widely publicized, their retractions rarely are—until Retraction Watch was launched, that is.

Retraction Watch is a blog that tracks retracted papers—and, in my opinion, is pretty darn interesting and important.  Started in 2010 by Ivan Oransky and Adam Marcus, both well-accomplished medical writers, Retraction Watch has gained acclaim from publications like Nature and The Wall Street Journal.

At times, Retraction Watch reads like a baseball website as the bloggers pore over statistics for researchers notorious for having their papers retracted—German anesthesiologist Joachim Boldt, for example, who had 89 studies retracted!

In the spirit of Auld Lang Syne, Retraction Watch provided a 2011 Year in Review of Retractions to close out the year. Some of the most popular posts:

  1. Forget chocolate—about a retracted article on semen being a good Valentine's Day gift;

  2. One about a retracted Applied Mathematics Letters article that claimed that science came from space; and

  3. One about a journal editor's response to Retraction Watch when the bloggers asked why a paper was retracted: "It's none of your damn business" were the eloquent words of Dr. L. Henry Edmunds Jr., editor of the Annals of Thoracic Surgery and a professor of cardiothoracic surgery at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.

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